Members of the Caucus of Working Educators are: (from left) Pamela Roy, Eileen Duffey, Tasha Russell, Amy Roat, Yaasiyn Muhammad, Kelley Collings, Ismael Jimenez, Peggy Savage, and George Bezanis. (Photo: Samuel Reed)
During the conference, about 200 members and supporters attended a day-long series of workshops on topics like organizing, using social media, and grassroots fundraising. They then poured into the church’s main hall for a closing session that had the atmosphere of a pep rally.
“Do you feel like you’re ready to take over Philly?” shouted Tamara Anderson, parent of a daughter at Hill-Freedman World Academy, as she opened the session to roars of approval and a drumbeat of pounding on the backs of the church pews.
“I am sick of austerity. I am sick and tired of cuts that disproportionately affect Black and brown children. Status quo unionism has put the PFT to sleep,” said vice presidential candidate Yaasiyn Muhammad, a history teacher at Central High School.
Ismael Jimenez, a teacher at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School and a candidate for special vice president, said, “We’ve been waiting for Superman so long, and all we’ve been getting is Lex Luthor.”
The group’s platform was also approved at the convention. Leaders said it had been drawn up after a listening tour that began in September.
Larissa Pahomov, an English teacher at Science Leadership Academy and a coordinator of the tour, said that almost 1,000 teachers and other personnel had given input through meetings at schools, restaurants, and other venues.
The caucus’ platform includes the following planks. (Read the platform in full below.)
- "Fight for a strong contract."
- "Become a democratic, member-driven union."
- "Improve transparency and communication."
- "Fight for justice."
- "Reclaim our status as professionals."
In a brief interview after the session, Roat called the movement “a freeing or a re-energizing of our union to create the schools our staff and our children deserve.”